Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Kansas City's Jesuit Parish
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Thursday, Sep. 9th 2021

Reflection on 9/11

Twenty years ago I was scheduled to preach for Catechetical Sunday the third Sunday of September. The readings for the day were Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, and Luke 15:1-32. And then the terrorist attacks of9/11 happened. This is the reflection I gave at the Saturday and Sunday Masses after the attacks. I believe every word– even more today than I did then.

I preach today with a heart filled with deep sadness about the events about the events of this past week. The terrorist attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon and the downing of the plane in Pennsylvania and the intricate web of terrorist plotting against the government and people of the United States is overwhelming.

The suffering. The loss of life. The evil of mass murder and the threat of more death and destruction is unspeakable.

The sadness, the fear, the anger, the confusion is suffocating.

And what will happen next? It is very frightening.

And yet we come together today. We gather with our brothers and sisters in these pews. And we hear the word of God proclaimed. And we say, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.”

We say “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ” in response to a gospel story about forgiveness.

Really three gospel stories about forgiveness and reconciliation, about the lost being found, about a kind of love that hardly makes sense under the best of circumstances and is especially hard to grasp at a time of national calamity.

Today’s readings are about sin and idolatry. They speak of perversity and a “stiff necked people.” And they talk about responding to sin with something other-than wrath and terror. The readings today offer us a promise and a hope of another way.

Our three gospel stories are from the fifteenth chapter of Luke. They are the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. They are sometimes called “the gospel in the gospel” because these stories contain the very essence of the good news that Jesus came to tell. And we really need to hear good news today.

These stories tell us who-God-is and who we are called to be. They tell us about a shepherd, about one who cares for sheep, a hard and dangerous work. They tell us about a shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine of his flock to go after the one sheep who is lost, risking his own safety and the safety of those ninety-nine. They tell us about a woman who has lost a silver coin and who sweeps the house up and down to find it. And they tell us about a father who loses a son and who waits patiently – oh so patiently – for him to return.

And in all three stories we hear about a celebration, about rejoicing when the lost is found.

Jesus tells us these stories so we will know who our God is: the foolish shepherd who carries that straying lamb home on his shoulders, the hardworking homemaker who calls in her friends and neighbors to party with her, the generous father who forgives and restores his son with a ring and a robe and a fatted calf.

And this is who we are called to be.

All of us who call ourselves Christian, all of us who mark ourselves with the Sign of the Cross,  all of us who bless ourselves with holy water pledge ourselves to following the way of the one who told these stories. And his is the way of love, not hate, not violence, not revenge, not prejudice, not blind retaliation. But this is a hard way.

Especially hard, I think, for Americans this week.

It’s hard to love and forgive when we are hurt in small ways, by the thoughtlessness of family and friends and co-workers. It’s almost unthinkablevwhen those with whom we identify as fellow citizens are attacked by terrorists and killed in unprecedented numbers.

And so we need to ask Jesus to show us the way. We need to pray God to help us. We need to beg that the Holy Spirit touch us and strengthen us and guide us and our leaders.

How do we be Christians and Americans?

Is there another way beyond violence? Is there a way to condemn this horrific act of terrorism, to say loud and clear and without a doubt with our words and actions that this should not have happened and must never happen again? Is there a way to find those responsible for this evil and disarm them? Is there a way to do this without a devastating escalation of the violence?

Is there a way to make our world safe?

Is there a way for us to engage in a critical examination of our US foreign policy and of our role as a world power, as a world leader, in the many conflicts in the world today and our role in the desperate poverty and hopelessness that marks the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters around the world?

Is there a way to look at our own idols of wealth and of military might?

Is there a way to not allow hatred and prejudice to take over? For it was hatred and prejudice that motivated these madmen to kill so many innocents.

The history of the world has many painful lessons for us and one of them is injustice and violence only beget more injustice and violence. We need to come together as we have today…and all during the week…to talk, to cry, to rage, to study our history, to read about the great peacemakers of the past, to proclaim Scripture, to pray and to be nourished by the Eucharist, by the Body and Blood of Jesus who died to take away the sin of the world and who rose again to share the Spirit with us.

And we need to take stock of our own lives, of our own hearts. We need to root out any sin, any idolatry, any unforgiveness, any prejudice or hate there large or small. We need to ask ourselves, do I bear a grudge against any one? Am I holding on to an old hurt? Iis my world divided into “us” and “them”

Because if we don’t know that we are ALL brothers and sisters, if we are caught up in the sins and hurts of the past, then God can’t use us to build the Reign of God.

And God needs us.

This weekend/today we mark Catechetical Sunday. In Catholic parishes all over the nation, we stop to acknowledge and affirm  the work done by Catholic school teachers and parish religious education catechists and youth workers. And we remember that parents are “the first and the best” teachers in the way of faith.

These folks are on the front lines of building the Reign of God. They are the ones teaching the hard lessons to our children and young people. The lessons: love is stronger than death. Forgiveness is more powerful than revenge. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds moreover.”

Teachers and catechists, parents and grandparents…and all of us, really…teach many things by word and example. But the most important thing we need to teach, we must teach, is to NEVER GIVE UP – on ourselves, on one another, on the world. Or on God.

Because God is not going to give up on us.

Today we gather and we say, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” We praise God for the gift of life and the promise of resurrection. We praise God for showing us another way:  a way of love and forgiveness and justice and mercy. We praise God for those we love and for those who love us. We praise God for the grace and the POWER and the STRENGTH to forgive those who have hurt us and disappointed us and betrayed us. And for the grace and power and the strength to forgive ourselves for failing to be all we are called to be.

We praise God for this community of faith and for this Word we hear and for this Table we share. We praise God that we are alive and we have a job to do.

We have Jesus to follow.

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Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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